Nick Markakis has a big season coming up. After years of trying to find his spot in the lineup, being an RBI machine with Brian Roberts ahead of him, and looking for the power in his swing, Markakis may be ready to make strides in all of those areas this year for multiple reasons. With Roberts healthy (sort of) and the new bats added to the order, Markakis can finally settle into the two-hole where he has found past success, without feeling nearly the same pressure as years past.
By the middle of the 2010 season, Markakis was looked upon as the strongest bat in the Orioles lineup. At times, he found himself struggling to keep his average up around the .300 level where we know he can hit, while his homerun power was nowhere to be found. While he finished the year with 45 RBIs (his 4th straight year with 40+), Nicky would go weeks at times without a shot out of the park (0 in June, 1 in April, 1 in August). His defense has kept up to make him a bit of an above average right fielder, and his patience at the plate brought him 73 walks on the season.
Where Markakis really hit a wall was with his spot in the lineup. A career .324 2-hole hitter, Markakis was stuck batting 3rd for 102 games last year, where he hit .286. In the 58 games he got the start batting 2nd, he put up a .316 average, and hit a HR every 29.6 ABs (opposed to every 98 ABs batting 3rd). It has become obvious that for Nick to succeed, he needs to follow Brian Roberts in the lineup batting 2nd. Now with multiple new options to bat 3rd in Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, and more, Markakis looks forward to stabilizing himself as a 2-hole hitter in 2011.
The HR count has declined each year since 2007 for Markakis (23, 20, 18, and 12 in 2010). Hopefully with an improved lineup, this number can again hit the 15-25 range, but we can’t know for sure. Where Markakis will provide a sure help to the order is in his OBP (.370 in 2010). Nick’s ability to take pitches and wait for his time to swing has always been above average, and we can look forward to that continuing in 2011. At the age of 27, he is hitting his prime years as an athlete in Major League Baseball, and after last season where he stepped up to push for the team improving, he now has his chance to shine in 2011.